Second edition-time was close at hand, but no news regarding Mr. Hamden Potter had come in from either Newton or Mack. From a reporter sent to interview representatives of the company constructing the subway came a message to the effect that none of the officers would talk for publication.
"What in the world is the matter with Harvey and Mack?" asked Mr. Emberg, restlessly pacing the floor. Every one in the city room felt the strain. Every time the telephone bell rang, the city editor jumped to answer it, without waiting for one of the boys or a reporter to get to the instrument.
Finally, after several false alarms, the bell rang and the city editor, grabbing up the portable telephone, cried out:
"Yes? Oh, it's you, Newton. Where in the world have you been? We only have time for the last edition. Talk fast! What's that? The Potter family home, and you can't see Mr. Potter? Why not? Tell them you've got to see him. Send in a message you have something of importance to tell him. You say you have? And you can't see him? But you must! Go back and try again. This is the biggest story we've had in a long while and we can't fall down on it this way!"
He hung up the receiver on the hook with a bang, and once more began pacing the floor.
"That's queer," he murmured. "There's something strange back of all this. Potter is up to some game, and so is Sullivan. Come here, Larry."
Mr. Emberg closely questioned the young reporter as to every detail of his interview with Sullivan.
"I'm going to write something myself," the city editor announced. "We've got to have more of this story. I can guess at part of it, and I'll make it general enough, and with sufficient 'understoods' in it to save us in case I'm wrong."
He began to write, nervously and hurriedly, handing the sheets over to his assistant to edit as fast as he was done with them. They were rushed upstairs, one at a time, as Larry's copy had been.
The last edition went to press without the much-desired interview with Mr. Potter. The city editor wrote a story, full of glittering generalities, telling how it was believed that certain forces were at work in the interest of getting a new line of the subway through the eighth district, and that Assemblyman Reilly was concerned in the matter, as was also a certain well-known financier, whose name was not mentioned, but whom the readers of the Leader would have little difficulty in recognizing as Mr. Potter.
To show that it was Mr. Potter to whom he was referring Mr. Emberg added at the bottom of the story, and under a separate single-line head, a note to the effect that all efforts were unavailing to get an interview with Hamden Potter, the financier, who that day had returned from Europe with his family, as Mr. Potter would see no reporters. It was added that Mr. Potter's connection with the subway interests might throw some light on the reason for the declaration of Sullivan for Reilly.
In all this there was no direct statement made, but the inferences were almost as strong as though the paper had come out boldly and stated as facts what Mr. Emberg believed to be true, but which he dared not assert boldly. But as long as they were not made direct and positive there was no chance for a libel suit, which is something all newspapers dread.
"There, I guess that will do if Harvey can't get at Potter," spoke Mr. Emberg when he had finished. "Queer, though, that Potter keeps himself away from our reporters. He used to be willing enough to talk."
A little later another telephone message was received from Mr. Newton, announcing that it was useless to try to see the millionaire.
"Come on in, then," the city editor directed.
Nor was Mack any more successful. He had learned that the Potter family had hurried from the dock in a closed carriage and were driven to their handsome home on the fashionable thoroughfare known as Central Park, West. No one had seen Mr. Potter, as far as Mack could learn, and the reporter was not allowed to go aboard the ship, as the custom officers were engaged in looking over the baggage of the passengers.
"Well, we've got a good story," said Mr. Emberg late that afternoon, when work for the day was over. "It's a beat, too."
"Did any of 'em make lifts for it?" asked Mr. Hylard, the assistant city editor. A "lift," it may be explained, is the insertion of a piece of news in the last edition of a paper. It is made by taking one plate from the press, removing or "lifting" a comparatively unimportant item of news from the form, inserting the new item, which was received too late for the regular edition, making a new plate, and starting the press again. It is done rather than print an entire new edition, and is sometimes used when some other paper gets a beat or piece of news which your paper must have, or in case of an accident happening after the last edition has gone to press.
"The Star lifted our story almost word for word," said Mr. Emberg. "Guess they didn't take the trouble to confirm it. The morning sheets will probably try to discount it."
Which was exactly what they did. Some had what purported to be interviews with Sullivan, denying that he had said he was going to support Reilly. Others showed, editorially and otherwise, how nonsensical it would be for Sullivan to throw his influence to any one but Kilburn.
"I hope you haven't made any mistake, Larry," said Mr. Emberg the next day. "If you misquoted Sullivan it means a bad thing for our paper."
"I quoted him correctly."
At that moment the telephone on Mr. Emberg's desk rang and he answered it.
"Dexter?" he repeated. "Yes, we have a reporter of that name here." Larry was all attention at once. "Who wants him? Oh, Mr. Sullivan? Is this Mr. Sullivan? Well, this is the city editor of the Leader. I see some of the papers are denying our story. Our account is about correct, eh? Well, I'm glad of it. Yes, I'll send Mr. Dexter to see you right away.
"Sullivan wants to see you, Larry," went on Mr. Emberg, hanging up the telephone receiver. "This may be a big thing. Go slow and be careful of what he says. Don't let him bluff you."
"You're getting right into politics," said Mr. Newton to Larry, as the young reporter prepared to go out.
"Yes, and I'm afraid I'll get into water where I can't swim."
"Don't let that worry you. You've got to learn, and in New York politics is the most important news of all."
Larry found Sullivan in the same place where he had secured the momentous interview. The Assembly leader nodded to the boy, and then picked up a copy of the paper which contained an account of the talk with Sullivan.
"You made quite a yarn of this," Sullivan remarked.
"Yes, it was a good story."
"A little too good," went on the politician. "You got me into hot water."
"Did I misquote you?"
"No, but you got the information before I was ready to give it out. I thought you knew more than you did. This last part," pointing to the generalities written by Mr. Emberg, "this last part shows that you folks are up a tree. Now I want to know where you heard that about Potter, and I'm going to have an answer," and Sullivan lost his calm air and looked angrily at Larry.
"I can't tell you where I got my tip."
"You mean you will not?"
"Well, you can put it that way," replied Larry.
"I'll make you!" and the politician arose from his chair and stood threateningly over the young reporter. For a moment Larry's heart beat rapidly in fear. Then he remembered what Mr. Emberg had said: "Don't let him bluff you." He was sure Sullivan was bluffing.
"Are you going to tell?" asked Sullivan again.
"I am not."
Sullivan banged his fist down on his desk. He shoved his hat on the back of his head. Thrusting his face close to Larry's he exclaimed:
"Then I'll put you out of business! I'll make the city too hot to hold you! I'll have you fired from the Leader, and no other paper in New York will hire you! I'll show you what it is to have Jack Sullivan down on you! I was going to play fair with you. But you sneaked in here and got information I wasn't ready to give out. Now you can take the consequences!"
"I didn't sneak in here!" cried Larry. "I came openly. What's more, you can't scare me! I'm not afraid of you! I know what I did was all right! Perhaps the Leader knows more than you think. I'm not going to tell where I got my information, and you can do as you please!"
Sullivan had cooled down. He was a bit ashamed of having given way to his anger, for usually he kept his temper.
"All right," he said. "It's war between us now. Tell your city editor he needn't send you to get any more news from me, and when the Leader wants any favors from Jack Sullivan it can whistle for 'em. I'm done with that sheet. I'll show 'em who Sullivan is!"
Larry turned and went out. It was the first time he had been browbeaten like this, but he kept his nerve. If he had only known it, Sullivan was not the first politician to threaten to annihilate a paper, nor was it Sullivan's initial attempt to scare reporters into doing what he wanted.
As Larry left the headquarters he met Peter Manton going in.
"Making up another fake interview with Sullivan?" asked Peter, with a sneer. "You've made a nice mess of it!"
"I didn't make any worse one than you did with that wreck story," retorted Larry, who could not forego this thrust at his old enemy.
"I'll get even with you yet," exclaimed the rival reporter, as he scowled at Larry, and entered Sullivan's private room.
"I wonder what Sullivan will do about it?" thought Larry, as he went back to the office.
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